Audit reveals flaws in background check of Minnesota’s first cannabis director

Audit reveals flaws in background check of Minnesota’s first cannabis director

Erin Dupree, the woman appointed by Governor Tim Walz as the director of Minnesota’s new Office of Cannabis Management, resigned a day after her appointment in September 2023, following media reports that revealed her financial and legal troubles. Dupree had run a business that sold products exceeding state limits on THC potency, owed money to former associates and accumulated tens of thousands of dollars in tax liens.

An audit released on Thursday by the Office of the Legislative Auditor found that the governor’s office did not have complete information about Dupree when it selected her for the position, which was created to oversee the state’s medical and recreational marijuana programs. The audit said the governor’s office “departed from its Standard Operating Procedure for Executive Director Appointments” when conducting the background check on Dupree.

The audit identified three main differences from the standard procedure that contributed to the lack of information: the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) conducted the background check without the involvement of the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED), which usually performs such checks for the governor’s office; the governor’s office did not follow up with BCA after receiving Dupree’s signed release forms; and BCA did not review the Department of Revenue information, which would have shown Dupree’s unpaid tax liens.

Audit reveals flaws in background check of Minnesota’s first cannabis director


Governor’s office accepts audit recommendations and implements changes

The governor’s office said it accepted the audit recommendations and implemented changes to its process for executive director appointments. The changes include ensuring that AGED is involved in the background checks, verifying that BCA has received and reviewed the release forms, and requesting BCA to review the Department of Revenue information.

Mary Fee, general counsel in the governor’s office, said in a statement that the office reviewed its processes and made improvements immediately following the appointment. She also said the office appreciated the audit’s findings and recommendations.

The governor’s office has not yet announced a new director for the Office of Cannabis Management, which is responsible for regulating the production, distribution, and consumption of marijuana in the state. Minnesota legalized medical marijuana in 2014 and recreational marijuana in 2022, following a voter-approved ballot measure.

Marijuana industry and advocates await new leadership and reforms

The resignation of Dupree and the delay in appointing a new director have raised concerns among the marijuana industry and advocates, who are waiting for the implementation of the reforms and regulations promised by the governor and the legislature.

The reforms include expanding the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, increasing the number of dispensaries and manufacturers, allowing patients to access whole-plant products, and reducing the taxes and fees for the program. The regulations include setting up a licensing system, a tracking system, and a testing system for the recreational marijuana market, as well as establishing standards for potency, packaging, labeling, and advertising.

The marijuana industry and advocates hope that the new director will have the experience, expertise, and vision to lead the Office of Cannabis Management and to ensure the safety, quality, and accessibility of marijuana products for the patients and consumers in Minnesota.

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